Sunday, April 24, 2016

All the meat on the fire

Every Argentinian has their own secret asado recipe.  And it is the opinion of every Argentinian that their own secret recipe is the BEST asado recipe ever.  No self-respecting Argentinian will willingly admit that someone else's asado recipe is better than theirs - unless its their dad/mom's/grandparent's recipe or their husband/wife's recipe, in which case they will inherit the said recipe or have a hand in it, which means it's really their recipe and therefore it is still and always the BEST asado recipe ever.

I asked an Argentinian how this works.  How can every Argentinian's secret asado recipe be better than the recipes of all the other Argentinians?  Surely this is logically impossible.

He was not even ruffled by the question.  "It is perfectly logical.  Every asado prepared by an Argentinian at any given moment is the BEST ASADO THERE EVER WAS."

"What if there are two, or a hundred, or a hundred thousand asados being made at the same time? Surely they can't be all the BEST."

"Ah, but we live in a world where time moves forward.  Things happen consequentially, and not exactly contemporaneously.  The asado that comes a split second later is again the BEST ASADO THERE EVER WAS, and so on, and so on."

Ha ha.  But can Argentinians make a Chinese BBQ Squid?

He was rightfully stumped.

Actually BBQ Squid isn't really roasted, it is a marinated/stewed delicacy often found in Chinese BBQ restaurants/stalls.  That orange colour isn't from roasting, it is from tanning lotion.  But the Argentinians don't know that!  Shhhhhhh.....

This is a little known fact, but apparently every Argentinian's Tango is also the BEST TANGO EVER. 

Okay, I made that up.  But Argentinians who dance Tango do know a couple of things about how to dance it better than anybody else and in fact, they treat it like their asado.  

"All the meat on the fire!"  Don't hold back, just throw all those cuts of prime Argentinian beef, intestines, kidneys, sweetbreads etc. on the parilla.  They will all come out well done but the Argentinians like their meat thoroughly cooked anyway.  Rick McGarrey has already talked about it here.  While no Argentinian has actually said this to us in real life it is actually a very good Asado to Tango analogy.  Think this way and you are on your way to reach a mental and spiritual state to dance Tango well. 

"Hey Man Yung, do you think we can do a Chinese BBQ to Tango equivalent?  Like, all the Crispy BBQ Roast Pork in the....oven?"

Man Yung thought for a while.  "Not really.  Chinese Crispy BBQ Roast Pork, BBQ Roast Pork, BBQ Ribs, BBQ Duck, BBQ liver and hearts and BBQ sausage all have different cooking times and preparation methods.  Besides you know that your beloved BBQ Squid isn't even roasted, throw that on the fire and it will come out like a piece of charred leather.  BBQ Squid isn't really BBQ, it's been lovingly soaked in tanning lotion for it's sunny golden/orange glow....And don't even get me started on the marinated duck wings, duck heads, tofu, kidneys and seasoned jellyfish.  You can get all of these at the Chinese BBQ store but they aren't roasted AT ALL."

I made a face.  "DUCK HEADS."  Gross little fellas, consisting of soy sauce halved duck heads with the bills attached.  Man Yung likes them with beer. 

This is why I will never dance Tango as well as an Argentinian.  You can throw all your duck heads into the soy sauce, but would you want to eat them afterwards?* ** ***

1. * A local (Non-Argentinian, but excellent and exceeding popular, not always available for cabeceo due to being busy with hanging out with supermodels) dancer recently described to me the same concept.  "The old guys always told me, 'All the meat on the fire!'  That's how you can dance the best Tango."

I saw this as a splendid opportunity to fish for a compliment.  "You're right!  Now, in your opinion, who in Toronto dances with all their meat on the fire?"  

Hint:  Me!  Me!

 He rubbed his chin pensively for a few seconds.  "Nobody really."


2. ** Man Yung said, "Irene, I know you have a thing for avoiding soy sauce duck heads but that's not the whole extent of your problems with dancing Tango well."

"What do you mean?  There's something else?"

"Every Argentinian thinks his mom's cooking is the best.  I think my mom's cooking is the best.  Do you think your mom's cooking is the best?"

I vaguely remember spitting out my mom's cooking and trying to hide it behind my rice bowl at precisely the angle opposite from where she was sitting so she couldn't see what's going on. 


3. *** Man Yung wanted to add another nail to my coffin of being able to dance Tango well.   "Well Irene, what do you think of our cats?  Do you think they the most beautiful cats in the world?"

I look at him suspiciously.  "Come on!  What are you getting at with this?"

"Well, do you? Because I do."

I looked at our cats.   A bunch of old grumpy lumps.  They are cute and everything but realistically, they are not THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CATS IN THE WORLD. 

"They're ok but I'm not going to say they are the most beautiful cats in the world."

Man Yung shook his head.  "Too objective, Irene.  I have the most beautiful cats in the world, I dance the most wonderful Tango steps and I communicate the best Tango musicality and feeling in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE.  And my tango partner wife is the BEST TANGO PARTNER WIFE in history.  Can you think that?"

"Like, no.  Not unless I was like INSANE."  And whose freaking 'tango partner wife' was he talking about?  Must be some OTHER LADY judging from all his bloody whining and complaining about my dancing and housekeeping skills!   "And don't forget, I have stubby bendy legs."

"Precisely." said Man Yung.  


As you can see, Irene may not be doing too well with Tango, but she knows a heck of a lot way too much about Chinese BBQ!  You can read all about it here and here.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Somewhere along my tango journey, I picked up the notion that to have that real, authentic tango look (and dance), I got to have straight legs.

Which I didn't have.

Maybe I had OD'd on too many videos of glamourous young tango performers in sky high tango stilettos, kicking and foot flicking their way through brassy modern interpretations of 'Quejas de Bandoneon'.  Neck straight, back straight, legs straight, feet straight - and flying across the dance floor.  The golden standard. 

It was painful for me back then to look at the way I danced.  Crooked, bendy, with feet turned out just slightly less humourously than Charlie Chaplin's.  I strained to step straighter, using all my mental willpower (and hours of practice) to get those damn knees straight and feet together.  To no avail.  I had neither the genes nor the years of rockette/ballet practice.  And - Damn those karate classes.  Sensei made us practice for years, kicking imaginary butt without overextending our knees. 

It was too late.  Bendiness was ingrained; Tango elegance was forever out of my reach.

It got so bad I took to wearing long skirts to hide my crazy ugly bendy knees.  A expat Tanguera in Buenos Aires once asked me, why, sweetie, are you hiding your legs under those long skirts?  It's kind of matronly for a young person.  I flushed red to the top of my head.  My knees are bent, I whispered sadly.  Expat Tanguera nodded sagely and somewhat condescendingly.  Oh, poor dear, I understand.  Yes, you need good straight legs to look nice in Tango.  Practice more!  And off she went dancing (rather woodenly, in retrospect) with some random milonguero.  Well, at least she had some good straight legs.

Man Yung tried to console me.  "Look at Geraldine!  She doesn't have straight legs."

"What?  No way."  I took a look - ok, she was kind of bendy.  "Yeah, but she is a superstar.  She can pull anything off." I said.

"How about Adela and Elba and Susy and all your favourite milongueras?  Their legs aren't super robot straight either, and they look fantastic dancing.  Your legs aren't made from one straight bone from hip to ankle (you moron).  It is natural to bend."

 "You mean, I don't need Fembot legs to look great dancing Tango?"

Maybe there was a point in what he said.  But I wasn't completely convinced yet.

Osvaldo, god bless him, never said anything about my legs or knees or posture or whatever.  The only piece of advice he ever gave me about dancing was, "Pick up your feet", i.e. don't drag them like I was sweeping the floor with them when I was dancing.  He didn't have any tango advice for me really (ever), but he did think I was a wiseass.  He said one time to his daughters when we were having lunch together at his house, "Be really careful when you are talking with Irene.  She's a smart one with the devil in her!  She'll make a joke with what you say before you know it!"  And then he rolled his eyes while we all laughed.

What he did say to Man Yung was this:  "Don't walk like you are 'DANCING TANGO'.  Come on, relax."  And he would give his shoulders and arms a little shake and fling like he was trying to relax to show Man Yung what he was talking about.  "When you are dancing, walk like you are walking to the supermarket.  Like you were walking in the street.  Like you were taking a walk in the park with Irene."

And I bet there was never any doubt for Osvaldo that the woman with the most marvelous legs in the whole world was Coca.   He'd walk hand in hand with her anywhere and just being with her was the best thing in the entire universe.

I didn't get it right away.  Maybe there was never any need to "get it" in the first place.  But after dancing tango for twelve years and getting a bit older and wiser, I have become less conscious more accepting about my freakish just fine and dandy legs.  It's just something I realized one day - among other things.

The best look:  It may not necessarily be any of bombshell/vamp/virgin/beauty pageant contestant/model/Forever Tango Tanguera.  The best look to have is well rested.

The best outfit: It may not be any of fashion forward/trendy/classic/bohemian/couture.  The best outfit is clean, neat and appropriate to the occasion.

And the best legs for Tango: Whatever legs you have naturally!  Bendy or straight, doesn't matter so long they are yours. 

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